Amsterdam has a long and eventful history. The origins of the city lie in the 12th century, when fishermen living along the banks of the River Amstel built a bridge across the waterway near the IJ, which at the time was a large saltwater inlet. Wooden locks under the bridge served as a dam protecting the village from the rising IJ waters, which often flooded the early settlement. The mouth of the river Amstel, where the Damrak is now, formed a natural harbor, which became important for trading-exchange from the larger koggeships into the smaller ships that sailed the merchandise deeper into the hinterland.
The oldest document referring to the settlement of “Aemstelredamme” (Amsterdam) ‘dam in the river Amstel’ comes from a document dated October 27, 1275 CE. Inhabitants of the village were, by this document, exempted from paying a bridge toll in the County of Holland by Count Floris V.
Excavations between 2005 and 2012 found evidence that the origins of Amsterdam are much older than ‘only’ the twelfth century. During the construction of the Metro “Noord-Zuid lijn” archeologists discovered, some 30 meters below street level, pole-axes, a stone hammer and some pottery, all dating from the Neolithic era (New Stone Age). This would mean Amsterdam or its predecessor would have seen human habitation since about 2600 BCE.